It’s the moment you realise – if only for a few seconds – that everything you’ve just witnessed might not be as it first appeared. Neal Damiano checks out 10 great “what the heck happened” horror movie endings.
Krampus’s ending stands up to the batsh*t standard of the rest of the movie by revealing a monstrous, demonic, Christmas-time demon intent on punishing a young boy and his family for the rest of eternity. After battling it out against killer elves and perverted apparitions of classic Christmas entities, young Max is given the option to leave his family behind and learn from losing his Christmas spirit – or to be condemned to hell with the ungrateful lot instead. Max unwittingly chooses the latter, awakening the next morning to the perfect Christmas before realising he and his family are bound to a snowglobe under the watchful eye of Krampus forever more. Reliving Christmas every day with all your relatives trapped in one house is a pretty harsh punishment, even by horror movie standards.
9. Drag Me To Hell
She’s done everything right and earned her happy ending, getting a promotion, a lovely weekend away with her boyfriend, and a nice new coat because why the heck not? Until, of course, it’s revealed she’s mixed up the return of a cursed button by simply not checking the envelope it was in and skeletons literally pull her through the earth. That jacket is not going to come in handy.
8. The Witch
The film is a slow burn but it’s beautifully shot, and comes entirely left field from the uncertainty of what we had witnessed previously where the whole movie was a question of whether coincidence, hallucination, or real life phenomenon were at play. The ending damns it all by going batsh*t crazy. It’s utterly fantastic.
7. Friday The 13th
Exhausted, Alice decides to take a nap in a canoe that then drifts out over the water as what’s more relaxing than being out in the open on an isolated camp ground after killing someone where they stand? Then Jason appears and pulls her down into the lake. She wakes up in a hospital with the police chief telling her there was no little boy found leading the audience to question if they’re going to see a part 2 or was it all a dream?
6. The Descent
After finding a car and driving away, she’s faced with an apparition of her dead friend only to wake up from her hallucination to find herself still trapped under the earth, with the creatures of the caves closing in from every angle.
It’s bleak, it’s messy, and it’s extremely effective, depicting Sarah’s mind snapping like a guitar string as the last of her torchlight flickers around her.
The camera woman discovers the patient zero in the last moments of the movie, forced to use the night vision on the camera in an attempt to see where this horribly deformed and dangerous creature is. She gives away her position and is dragged into the darkness, but not before we see her screaming face pleading for help. Intense, incredibly scary, and original in every sense of the word, [REC] is one of the best modern horror films.
4. Don’t Look Now
John is murdered in cold blood as he realises the visions were actually a premonition of his own death. It’s a complete surprise that goes back through every clue in the movie; making what would be a terrifically dark and scary death on its own all the more relevant . Whilst it might come out of nowhere, that’s exactly what doubles down on its terrifying qualities. Not to mention that the serial killer is actually a grown adult dwarf wearing a red jacket.
Turns out there’s a price when you broadcast Videodrome, a snuff TV programme that induces brain tumours in its watchers, resulting in dark hallucinations and some insane additions to the human body. In the end, Max is forced to kill himself to ascend in an attempt to take down Videodrome once and for all.
2. The Wicker Man
We’ve had several terrifying movies since and some gorier, some inflated with jump scares, and some far more brutal, but there’s nothing that compares to the deeply unsettling death of Howie through religious extremism. The film remains one of the creepiest and there’s a reason it continues to resonate.
1. Night Of The Living Dead
Playing out a shocking ending based on human complications rather than the ones related to the living dead, Ben is only killed once the threat has been controlled and a group of roaming zombie killers find him. Unceremoniously shooting him and blasting him on the pile to burn, it’s a stunning, mouth-open ending to a movie that appears on the surface to just be a dose of mad zombie mayhem, instead hiding a complicated look into society’s preconceptions underneath the whole flesh eating chaos.
Written and compiled by Neal Damiano
Your turn: what are your fave “what the heck” horror movie endings?